Tuesday, 22 January 2008

It's Not The Brand, It's The Network Silly......

Ive been wanting to write a post on this for a long while but I've been having trouble articulating exactly what my issue is. And I do have an issue. Forrester came out and said that digital agencies aren’t positioned currently to be key brand strategic partners.


"The interactive agencies are in a position where all their staff is focused on executing on digital," he said. "They need people who understand that broader relationship between online and offline media."

Ok, so here is my beef. The relationship between offline and online media is only relevant if:

a. you are speaking about advertising
b. you are speaking to a target audience that even differentiates between offline and online (which is becoming a smaller and smaller segment of the population as the lines between virtual and real become completely blurred)

The key isn't offline and online - it isn't integrated 360 media, or convergence - it's about networked brands and understanding new and complex networked marketing models.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, digital has changed everything except how traditional advertising agencies build brands. A singular brand promise can be communicated in a 60 second TV spot or print ad. However, if you want to now extend that brand to be meaningful in a call centre, in retail, or on a corporate website, you need to dimensionalize it beyond one aspirational thought.

Similarly, marketing models need to account for the interrelationship of complex parts - the ecosystem approach that I have blithered on about for a while now.

Anyhow, it's sounding like a rant. Read this article (i've mentioned it before) about asking if ideas are too big for advertising and then add on to that, is it really about an 'idea' or is it really about building networked brands and networked marketing architectures that can then support that.


Gavin Heaton said...

I agree with Forrester ... but for a different reason. My view is that most digital agencies aren't positioned to be key brand strategic partners because they don't understand business strategy. The same can be said of traditional agencies.

But I also agree with your ecosystem thinking. But that seems to play toward the business consultancies (like McKinseys) who will eventually be able to create models that demonstrate a link between brand value and the balance sheet. Then the TVC will become entirely tactical and measured in terms of hard sales while digital will become the brand-building medium of choice.

All this sounds like a new kind of agency.

Leigh said...

lol Gavin, well now I can disagree with Forrester AND you!

I think digital agencies (and I'm talking pure play here) in fact do focus in on business strategy. (well maybe not all of them but the good ones). The key is the bridging of that through the marketing communications filter.

The issue of brand value and the balance sheet - they've been attempting to do that for years and what do we have? Have you seen a marketing dashboard at any clients that you see makes sense or is baked into the client culture?

I think s/he who can operationaliae the networked brand/marketing concept will be the one who will be the strategic partner.

Consultancies? Hum....operationalizing has never been their strong suit which is why they've never been able to penetrate the hold that agencies have on brands.

A new kind of agency? Perhaps. I know there are certainly a bunch of people trying....

Gavin Heaton said...

You are right about the dashboard and the culture. But seriously, until digital agencies start talking outside of the marketing function they are just kidding themselves. This is where the business folks come in. They open doors.

Marketing departments and CMOs etc generally have no influence at the board level. They often don't sit at the big table making the big decisions. Or if they do, they are in and out of a company within a three year time frame. All this comes down to accountability. It comes down to long term vision.

A really smart mixture of brand strategy, creativity, innovation and business/financial design would change a lot of things.

I am not saying I have the answer. Just a bunch of questions.

mjmantey said...

Having a perspective on this from multiple angles, I do believe that a digital agency could be core to the brand strategy. It surprises me that the holding companies aren't using them for pitches and new brand direction. Problem, is that digital is such a tactical discipline (similar in that way to DM), the people able to think beyond just that are very few. Advertising and Public Relations execs still generally sell better and those clients (big) believe them more; they don't want to, it's the training they got and to lose that would mean their world comes crumbling down (and they don't get to go to Shutters in Santa Monica anymore for glamorous shoots).

I'm with Gavin, though, marketing is generally just a line item. It has been completely marginalized in relation to business strategy and performance. Not many CMOs turning into CEOs.

New agency owns sales and marketing, contributes to product development and gets paid like a venture shop; fees and board seats.

Leigh said...

You and Gavin have both got me now encouraged to write a post about the CMO/CEO dilemma. I agree it's a major issue and one that is only going to get more complicated as brands and customers converge.

On the question of tactics....I'd agree and it's a problem in digital agencies and as well on the client side. We need to stop the "where are the Web 2.0 features" questions, and start the "how can we create greater connection/community" conversation.

All i know is that when clients are brave enough to go on the journey of networked brands and marketing maps (which there have been a few and more more recently than not) they are thrilled with the end result. Competitive differentiation that is demonstratable and infused in their overall customer experience.

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